Though often joked about, man boobs or “moobs” are quite common in men of all ages. Men actually have breasts. Yes, even milk ducts. However, breast tissue typically does not develop in men as it does in women because of the testosterone that increases during puberty.
It may happen, however, that some men experience breast enlargement. Gynecomastia is one medical condition that is known to cause breast tenderness and swollen breast tissue among men. The breasts may become larger or grow unevenly.
Basically, this condition is caused by some imbalance in the testosterone levels in the body, resulting in higher estrogen levels. Gynecomastia, while frequently occurs during puberty when hormonal changes are peaking, may also happen to newborns and men in their adulthood.
However, do know that majority of men with man boobs have them simply because of excess fat on their chest region. This is referred to as false gynecomastia or pseudogynecomastia.
Men’s pectoral muscles lie underneath the layer of fats, and so to lose this extra body fat will allow for the appearance of the muscle and the elimination of the fatty breast tissue.
Causes of Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia is linked to several hormone-related conditions and is typically a non-cancerous enlargement of the breast. It is often associated with puberty when it occurs most among adolescent boys. An imbalance in testosterone (male hormone) and estrogen (female hormone) commonly results in gynecomastia at this young age.
However, certain medications like antidepressants, chemotherapy, antibiotics, cancer, and cardiovascular medicines, among others, may also cause gynecomastia. Illicit drugs like heroin, marijuana, and anabolic steroids have likewise been linked to gynecomastia.
Some medical disorders may lead to gynecomastia, including:
- Congenital disorders
- Kidney disorders
- Liver diseases
- Lung cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Pituitary or adrenal gland tumors
- Thyroid diseases
- Trauma or injury
Newborns may have gynecomastia, though temporarily. This is commonly caused by estrogen from the mother that is left in an infant’s blood temporarily after the birth.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Gynecomastia
You may experience gynecomastia either in one or in both of your breasts. You may observe a fatty, sometimes sore, lump beneath the nipple, and this lump may progress to enlargement or uneven growth of one or both breasts.
Gynecomastia has symptoms that may be similar to the symptoms of other medical conditions. It is always best to seek the advice of a physician for the most accurate diagnosis and suitable treatment plan.
To rule out other diseases or medical conditions, your healthcare provider may prescribe one or a combination of the following diagnostic tests:
- Blood tests with liver and hormone panels
- Biopsy or checking of breast tissue for the presence of cancer cells.
You may also be ordered to see an endocrinologist to confirm if the cause of your breast tissue enlargement is hormone-related.
Treatment of Gynecomastia
Your doctor will prescribe the right treatment plan for you, upon consideration of your:
- Medical history
- Severity of illness
- Response to different medications or therapies
- Preferred treatment interventions
Most gynecomastia cases occur during puberty. If your breast enlargement was observed during this period, the condition might resolve on its own over time, between six months and three years.
Suppose your breast enlargement is a side effect of medication or therapeutic intervention. In that case, you will need to cease intake of the medicine or the therapy process before your gynecomastia can be treated. Hormone therapy is a common treatment for gynecomastia.
Even though gynecomastia is usually a short-term condition caused by puberty, it may cause discomfort or embarrassment in some boys. Consult with your doctor, especially if you are in your teens, and find out if you are a candidate for gynecomastia surgery to remove the excess tissue on your breast area. Meanwhile, wearing loose tops may conceal the enlarged breast or breasts.
The Bottom Line
Gynecomastia is a medical condition characterized by an enlargement or overdevelopment of breast tissue among adult men or pubescent boys. The breasts may grow larger or unevenly.
Gynecomastia is typically due to an imbalance of testosterone (male hormone) and estrogen (female hormone) in the body. Gynecomastia may also be due to an underlying medical condition or as a side effect of certain medications.
Gynecomastia caused by puberty and hormones is often temporary and may resolve without treatment. There is also what is known as pseudogynecomastia, which is the enlargement of the breasts due to fat buildup. In which case, exercise is necessary to resolve it.
All in all, don’t hesitate to consult with your physician for the best diagnosis and treatment plan. There are quite a few ways you can get rid of man boobs and your doctor can guide you.